Aquarium PC v2

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Well we’ve had our aquarium running reliably for two years now. It’s been awesome. The main issue has been one of the capacitors on the graphics card blowing up. But that was actually better in mineral oil. What would have been a fire merely was the card failing.
It is definitely big to have an 11 gallon tank and yet we haven’t had a leak. More importantly the thing is absolutely whisper quiet when you consider it is running dual cards (well was, until one blew up). The radiator is excellent and the pump works well. The thing basically doesn’t ever get warm as the thermal mass of 11 gallons (5x the density of water) that it takes hours for it to even feel warm.
The only thing that didn’t really work were the fans in the mineral oil. The slow speed fans we got were just not able to push the mass and in fact the cpu fans in our monster Noctua NH-D15 actually stopped moving and it didn’t really matter.
Overclocking wise, we had (at the time) RAID 0 256GB SSDs and we got to the mythical 1000MBps for reads which is pretty amazing.
So what’s to change now? Well the first thing is to try to build something that is more like 5 gallons than 11 gallons. Half the weight and much more fun to fit everything into a mini-ITX build. Now we will have the thermal mass and aren’t building from a kit, so it should be fun.
As with last time, first we are going to move to the latest Devils Canyon refresh and look for the maximum bang for buck:

  • Intel Core i5 4690K. This supports massive overclocking and is just $220.
  • DDR3-2400 Memory. Haswell definitely benefits from faster memory as long as you have a motherboard that allows you to tweak the memory cycles. 2400 is the sweet spot so you can get 30% more bandwidth than the standard DDR3-1600. Of course only memory intensive applications like Photoshop CC really care, but there you can get 8% more performance. So anything that is memory intensive (like reading streams of video or audio) is going to really benefit.

  • nVidia GTX 970 SLI. As usual, nVidia has double the price from 970 to 980 for about 10% more performance. So it is much more economic to SLI a pair of 970s than to get a single 980. This thing still won’t handle 4K video at 60fps, so it is best tuned to a monitor like the ASUS ROG QHD monitor running at 120 fps. The main thing is to find a motherboard that has enough space for two of these.

  • Samsung Evo Pro 850. Wow this SSD is blowing away the memory benchmarks right now and it is easily bootable. Of course in six months, the Intel P3500 is going to blow it away with NVme and PCI Express but you can change it out then.

  • Scythe Big Shrunken B. This apparently the best of the small mini-ITX sized fans and as we’ve learned the main thing is to find a better and more power fan that works in mineral oil.

Finally, we need to find the mineral oil components:

  • Fish tank. We need an all acrylic one as the glass ones have issues. Puget Sound Systems used one of these, so will take some time to find.

  • Pump. Same issue, we need to find pump and tubing. Getting the same model as our old one seems like a good idea.

  • Radiator. The radiator in our last system was really overkill, but we probably need the same one this time around because we will be cooling with a lot less thermal mass.

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